Manifest Destiny is defined as "a belief that it was God's will that Americans spread over the entire continent, and to control and populate the country as they see fit." Many expansionists conceived God as having the power to sustain and guide human destiny. It was white man's heavy burden to conquer and Christianize the heathen and savage land. While the positive side of Manifest Destiny was a surge of enthusiasm and energy from the white settlers for pushing West, the negative side was the belief that the white man had the right to destroy anything and anyone -- namely Indians -- who got in the way. Tracing the path of Manifest Destiny across the West would highlight mass destruction of tribal organizations, confinement of Indians to reservations, and full blown genocide. The dark side of Manifest Destiny revealed the white man's belief that his settlement of the land and civilization of its native peoples was preordained.
While the whites were occupying the land, they decimated the Indian population, causing many tribes to flee their relentless onward push, or try to compromise with treaties and agreements. One such tribe to fall victim to the white encroachment upon their territory was the Nez Perce of North Western Oregon. The Nez Perce agreed to an 1855 treaty that guaranteed the tribe most of their traditional homeland in the Wallowa Valley of northeast Oregon to try to accommodate the white people who were beginning to invade their lands. Unfortunately, gold was soon discovered upon the Nez Perce land and the settlers wanted a larger portion of that land. The resulting 1863 treaty was agreed to by some tribal chiefs, but not all. Those who refused to sign were given an ultimatum in 1877, and rather than risk war, the non-treaty Nez Perce chiefs--Joseph, Looking Glass, White Bird, Toohoolhoolzote, Bald Head--decided to move their people onto the smaller remaining section of the reservation, towards Fort Lapwai.
There were nearly 800 of the Nez...
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